This Thing Called Courage

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Night to Remember

I HAD ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE LAST NIGHT. As some of you know, I am an ex-parishioner of the Jesuit Urban Center, ex because they closed their doors this summer after 163 years of service. Many of us as a group migrated over to St. Cecilia's on Belvidere Street in Boston, a very progressive and 'welcoming' (as they say) community, and last night the pastor of our new church threw a cocktail reception to welcome the new members. I went with my friend and neighbor Billy, who picked me up, and I was somewhat panty-twisted as he was thirty minutes late. Anyway the traffic and parking were atrocious, due to the Red Sox game (which wouldn't start til 8:30, so I knew I could make it home in time to watch) and we drove all over the South End, looking for a place to park. At one point we tried the school parking lot on Dartmouth Street, and even that was chock full. As we were turning around in there, I suddenly saw what I thought was a bird flutter past my range of vision. It had been dark for hours by then (though the full Hunter Moon was a glorious thing, rising over the harbor at the eastward) and I wondered what a bird was doing out and about so late.

I got out of the car to give a look-see, and to ascertain if the bird was okay. And there five feet before me, sitting on the asphalt, was an American Woodcock, aka 'Timberdoodle!' Right there in the South End! Those of you who are regular readers of this column know that the Woodcock is hands down my favorite bird in the world, and one that I frequently wait and wait and wait to see each spring, when the male performs, at twilight time, the most extraordinary and amaxing courtship flight/mating dance. (Go here to see the first part of the courtship dance, though this video doesn't show the amazing flight 300 feet up into the air, with the wonderful singing and whistling. But you WILL hear the characteristic PEENNNNT)

I have gone to Topsfield, Ipswich, Concord, Sudbury, and Winchester to see the Woodcock, and have spent many long hours waiting and scratching, often in vain, to see this most amazing sign of spring-- and here was one right in front of me, in the heart of Fastidious Queendom! He/she wasn't wounded or anything, and probably was taking a rest from the arduous migration (they travel in the fall down to the Gulf Region). We just stood there staring at each other for a bit, his/her head tilted and the big liquidy eyes shining in the dark-- as I wrote to a friend this morning, I could hardly have been more surprised, or pleased, if the BVM had appeared; and I never would have seen it if Billy had been on time, and if the parking had been easier-- two things I had been fussing and fuming over for the past 45 minutes. The lesson? 'Less push and more flow,' as my sister Peg would say.

I know this means something, but I'm not sure what.


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